Good News, Science 2.0 Writers - Women Prefer Arrogant Men
    By Hank Campbell | April 19th 2012 03:53 PM | 19 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Let's be honest - in the 21st century the wussification of men has been in full force.   Being a man is out if that means not being a politically correct, hyper-sensitive, asexual, homogenized follower of all that is cool and popular among the cultural intelligentsia.

    But testosterone levels are dropping and that could mean any number of consequences for the future of our species. Now you have one more science excuse to sack up and stop identifying as a metrosexual; a group of researchers concluded in 2010 that modest males endure social backlash because they are not 'macho' enough. We may not like arrogant people but meek people are annoying too.

    Their study (well, surveys of undergraduates - as legendary psychologist Paul Ekman said at the Being Human conference, "We basically have a science of undergraduates") included 132 female and 100 male volunteers who viewed videotaped job interviews of men and women - yet the tapes were not just of regular folks, all of the 'job applicants' were paid actors told to deliver 'modest' responses for a technical job that also required social skills.

    The psychologists noted that the applicants in the staged interviews were considered competent but the more meek males were less liked, which they concluded is a sign of social backlash - modesty is equated to weakness, they contend, a low-status character trait for males. Modesty in women, however, was not viewed negatively nor was it linked to status.

    No more modesty.  It's time to be less Clark Kent and more Superman, say social psychologists.  Credit: Rutgers

    Obviously this requires some calibration. First, if both males and females were thinking less of the males than the females, there could easily be other factors in play. If it were just men doing the penalizing, the machismo penalty would be more evident.  Should we instead believe female psychology undergraduates viewing the videos dislike modest men? Second, lead author Corinne A. Moss-Racusin's thesis was on the topic of negative reactions to women who fail to behave in a female sex-typed way so she tends to look for negative reactions, and her specific concern is how stereotypes impact the workplace.   It merits study, obviously, but college-age males and females are hardly indicative of hiring managers or society-at-large.

    "For men and women, there are things they must and must not be," Moss-Racusin said about the work. "Women must be communal and other-oriented, but they must not be dominant. Historically and cross-culturally, men have been stereotyped as more agentic, that is, more independent and self-focused than women.  Women are allowed to be weak while this trait is strongly prohibited in men.  By contrast, dominance is reserved for men and prohibited for women."

    Where did all that come from?   No idea.   Certainly not the study.   So did the study show that the 'modest' males would face hiring discrimination?  No, but there is an answer for that also - men's status is higher than women's so even meek men get the benefit of the doubt and are less likely to encounter hiring discrimination than dominant women. White male privilege - or even any male privilege - even applies to the wussy ones.

    The researchers seem not to notice they are in a field dominated by dominant women - 75% of social psychology students and professionals are women.  So it is unlikely men are catching any special break in that arena, and they do not disclose the location of this magical place where men still rule the world. Is it engineering, a 'technical' field? No, women have income parity there, higher than any field in America. It must be in environmentalism jobs that men dominate, because gender pay levels there show that women have been trapped in the 1960s.

    Since so many men are more modest these days, and the authors contend there is an economic backlash, how are men still making more money?  It's a mystery of social psychology.

    Citation: Corinne A Moss-Racusin, Julie E.  Phelan, Laurie A. Rudman, Psychology of Men&Masculinity, Vol 11(2), Apr 2010, 140-151. doi: 10.1037/a0018093


    Lex Anderson
    I am not sure what I bought, but you sold me at "wussification".
    You've done your part to propagate the species then!

    Their whole premise is flawed.  Based on reputation, you wouldn't expect it, but I have never seen a group more unfailingly meek and polite in public than professional wrestlers. Over years of travel and seeing them many times, I have never seen any lose their cool when lots of business people did.

    But if a social psychologist dragged in a bunch of psychology 101 students and said 'which of these people do you want to hire to be a professional wrestler?' and showed terrible wrestlers yelling in the ring or a polite wrestler in an airport, they would pick the terrible one even though the polite one is the one who is successful, since he is flying all over the country getting paid to do it.  Teenage psychology students would be basically projecting their notion of what wrestling is into the determination - and their ability to scout wrestlers is about as solid as their ability to represent hiring managers in the real world.
    Interesting, Hank. I can testify to the apparent meekness of a professional wrestler, and can offer an explanation in this one case.

    Many years ago, a pro wrestler and his wife moved in to the house next door to ours. It took quite a while for them to begin socializing in our neighborhood because they traveled so much. After about six months, they attended a block BBQ. I was amazed, then being an impressionable teen, to find that the man was nice. You see, he was the stereotypical 'bad guy' and I had seen him on national TV several times.

    Long story short(er). He did seem meek. Very quiet, but also very polite. My brothers and I quizzed Dad about this seemingly contradictory man. My father had visited with the wrestler and his wife on several occasions and had this to say:

    These folks are professionals. They go to the gym and workout for hours every day. The job they have is called 'show business'. The wrestlers have to work very hard to choreograph their actions so that no one gets hurt when they put on their show in the ring. Because of all of the practice, they are confident of their actions and have no need to be domineering or aggressive in their daily lives out of the ring. Dad ended his talk with something like this:

    Beware of the meek seeming, well-muscled, large man. Because he could break you in half by mistake.

    And this is further reason why the survey of college students falls apart. No student looking at a pro wrestler, no matter how meek and polite he acted in a job interview, would characterize him as meek because he is a 300 lb., well-muscled man. There would be no perceived penalty at all. What they are trying to contend, if you read between the lines and look at their other work, is that women are expected to be meek - society oppresses women, etc.  
    Gerhard Adam
    I'm not quite sure what "meek" means in these circumstances.  I suspect that being quiet and polite could be viewed as "meek", but I suspect that there was also an element of confidence and "firmness" that could be present if needed.

    In addition, many people in that kind of position will also avoid confrontations, so they behave in a way that minimizes the likelihood of such occurrences.  I'm not convinced that that is necessarily "meek".

    It's not much different when watching "alpha" animals in groups ... they aren't bullies.  They typically go about their business with the expectation of being recognized for their status.  The more aggressive animals [and I expect humans] are those that are attempting to gain status in the eyes of others that they don't have on their own.
    ...they are confident of their actions and have no need to be domineering or aggressive in their daily lives out of the ring...
    Which I think illustrates the point that those that tend to be aggressive, are those that think they can gain status, rather than being representative of those that actually have it.
    Mundus vult decipi
    In fairness to the authors, meek is not their verbage - they used modest and masculine but they seem to use neutral verbage for the less masculine man (otherwise they would have used modest and immodest) to RAM HOME THE POINT THAT WOMEN ARE HELD TO TIMID GENDER STEREOTYPES BY MALE-DOMINATED SOCIETY (ha ha). As if anyone could miss it.
    Gerhard Adam
    Is that why women have an "indoor voice"?   In any case, I must live in a very unique environment.  I've never seen such a creature as a "timid woman".  Where are they usually found?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Oops. Sorry that I injected the word meek into this.

    i think some people actually do think we live in a male dominated society here in the U.S. And, in years gone by, they could have been close to accurate. With the advent of the need for workers after WW2, when the ladies entered the workforce in mass, that began to change. Although, I still remember the adage that behind every successful man there was a strong woman at the helm.

    The evidence is strong. The numbers of female CEO's, and other business leaders, coupled with the obvious success of female politicos, should serve notice that the pendulum has increased in acceleration. Why should there continue to be a perceived need to frame the situation?

    Just as a point of clarification: In my post-retirement job, I have a 'lady boss'. At home, when my wife lays down the law, it is followed. I'm satisfied with both of these situations. Does that mean that I am a member of the dominant gender?

    //side note: How come it is that my attempt to use the blockquote code failed? Do I have to be logged in for it to be so?

    You’re right, of course. The concept of the word ‘meek’ is individually subjective. Moreover, I’m not just referring to the biblical term as stated in the King James Version either.

    At the time, I was deeply ensnared in the typical high school bullying and posturing of my age group. It wasn’t (to me) apparent at the time that the vast majority of those actions were the result of compensating for their own perceived lack of status. This fits well with your statement:

    Which I think illustrates the point that those that tend to be aggressive, are those that think they can gain status, rather than being representative of those that actually have it.

    Which reminds me of some of the antics some pro sports players. Not to pick on them precisely, but the NBA seems to have more than their fair share of outrageous status seekers. Then again, maybe I'm just jealous.

    Gerhard Adam
    You make some interesting points, and it raises the issue [somewhat tangentially] of why people/individuals fight.  It seems that most fights are a result of fear rather than toughness.  So, I've often assumed that the more fights an individual got into, the less secure they were about themselves. 

    So, to me, the biggest threat of physical violence always originated with the person that expressed the most fear, rather than the person that seemed to be the toughest.  That's why, in my view, there's nothing more dangerous than a scared person with a gun.
    Mundus vult decipi
    First, let me say that it is difficult for me to describe the pleasure I get from these discussions with you and Hank.

    Now, on the high school fighting (I love your tangents, btw) I think it is related to what I call the ‘caveman’ syndrome. The levels of blood testosterone had become elevated, the juvenile mind was not capable of suppressing those levels, and the old urge to prove oneself worthy of mating took over.

    You may be right about other instances of fighting. However, I’m reminded of my years in the navy, where a small set of individuals simply liked to fight.

    About the threat of someone who is frightened: Yeah! And, most certainly, a female who is in fear scares the devil out of me.

    When I was a girl I fought like a man. ;-)
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    Lex Anderson
    Their whole premise is flawed.   
    I tend to agree. The parameters of the study are far too generic to be useful. I am guessing that with a uniform distribution of specific criteria (hitmen interviews, hostage negotiator interviews...) the probability of arriving at either conclusion would be about equal. Such studies -- while they make popular headlines and inspire some useful commentary -- contain close to zero actual information (in the Claude Shannon sense)... Sounds a lot like politics doesn't it?
    Sasha must have a whole harem then...

    We like em males to be like Vikings, Hank! And I speak on behalf of all women of course. ;-) We don't need no psykos to tell us that. hahaha
    Bente Lilja Bye is the author of Lilja - A bouquet of stories about the Earth
    You're joking Bente, but it's common for heterosexual women to desire the veneer of a Viking who underneath has a compatible intellectual and emotional makeup.  And obviously, there's nothing wrong with that! I fell in love with my wife because she had the veneer of a Mediterranean beauty over a familiar spectrum of mood swings and analytical abilities.
    Yes, social psychologists could have an easily accepted premise studying that - or, in the case of men, the Madonna/Whore dichotomy.

    In both cases, the hidden undercurrent is that the aggressor has to be just attractive enough not to be creepy. An actual Viking may not be great but a Viking who looks like Brad Pitt, maybe. And all women say men should be bold enough to come up and talk to them - but they mean the pretty ones.

    As I tell young men, 'use caution in what movies teach you. Romantic comedy behavior in real life will get you arrested'.
    I was in the mid 30's when I re-entered the single market a few years back.  What I learned from that experience was interesting.  Women have a hard time knowing what they really want.  What they want intellectually is different than what they emotionally react to and each woman's background influences those reactions.  Of course undergrads are an entirely different set of humans than adults.

    I was dating (and eventually married) a women around my own age who was part of a group of single (divorced) women.  Several of her friends would be dating a 'good' guy and a 'bad' guy at the same time.  In all cases the 'bad' guy was a narcissistic chump.  They knew the guy was bad for them and they knew that it would be a mistake to continue on with them, but they persisted for a long time in these bad relationships.

    Part of the problem is that 'good' guys don't know how to be themselves.  They bend over backwards trying to do anything to please the girl and end-up being a doormat.  When Hank states 'wussification' that is what comes to mind.  I work with several engineers that have that exact problem.  They are arrogant when it comes to their profession (as engineers should), but getting them to be assertive with women is a waste of time. 

    Fortunately I have no such issues.  I am confident and I have every right to be.  ;-D
    Lex Anderson
    Women have a hard time knowing what they really want.  

    No harder time than men, I posit.

    I propose that in general, ignorance decreases proportional to experience as age increases. This is not necessarily a linear relationship, because children seem to learn from experience faster than adults do; and as we transition into old age, adults seem to assimilate increasingly fewer facts and as such become "set in our ways". In this sense, the general evolution of age versus experience could be characterized by the term "maturity".

    The common belief that 'young women gain maturity faster than young men' may be counterbalanced by the earlier onset of diseases such as dementia in elderly women. I have seen no compelling evidence that overall, maturity favors either gender. 

    Given then, that men and women will tend toward similar degrees of maturity in their middle years, if we assume there is a uniform choice of possible suitors, it would seem that the problem for either gender is not "knowing" what they want, but deciding who they want.

    Part of the problem is that 'good' guys don't know how to be themselves.   
    An interesting point. I take by this you mean one of three things: 1) Good guys are those who choose to be something other than themselves so as to improve their chances at being positively selected. In other words: good=untruthful. 2) Good guys are those lacking fundamental insight into their own character. In other words good=shallow. 3) Good guys actually are wusses. Good=wuss

    I can only conclude that a good definition of "good" guys is the exact opposite of what you just said.